Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Acceptance: Prime Number

Prime Number: A Journal of Distinctive Poetry and Prose

I’m very excited that my poem “Rock Wall” will appear in issue 17 of Prime Number, a new yet outstanding source of literary delight. “How could it be new,” you ask, “when they are on issue 17?” Answer: you need to break out of the reductive routine, your evenly spaced same-old-same-old, and enter into the weltanschauung of a rare, special and unpredictable beast: the prime number.

Every prime number is unique, after all. There is no formula to predict when the next prime will occur as you race toward infinity on the staircase of natural numbers (1, 2, 3, ...). No prime number is dividable into the product of other numbers. Unique, independent and fascinating, these special entities become more rare as the number of digits in their stride increases. It was proven true by the classic Prime Number Theorem in the 19th century.

The largest known prime number is currently listed on Wikipedia with its own special name:


which represents 2 x 10 to the 43112609 power, minus 1.

If Prime Number becomes the most legendary and long-lasting zine of all time, spreading through the galaxy among all (un)known species of xenoforms, it might someday reach Issue M43112609. This feat will be aided by the fact that the journal uses only prime numbers for its issues.

So, while I am appearing in 17, it is actually the seventh issue, if you want to revert to the old boring way of thinking. Contributors appearing in issue 127 will be, in prosaic terms, gracing the pages of the 31st offering. Currently the journal is on the quarter system, so 127 will come out just before the ninth year of publication.

Enough of the math! Except to say that I hope this literary oasis does reach M43112609. The contents are exquisitely non-mathematical and consummately fine. The Poetry Editor, Valerie Nieman, sets a highly professional standard for bona fides. She might be the most accomplished editor I have ever worked with. Here is her biography from the site:

Valerie Nieman worked for three decades as a journalist while honing her skills as a poet and fiction writer. Her third novel, Blood Clay, set in Piedmont North Carolina, will appear in fall 2010 from Press 53. She is the author of a collection of short stories, Fidelities (West Virginia University Press), and a poetry collection, Wake Wake Wake (Press 53). She has received an NEA creative writing fellowship in poetry, two Elizabeth Simpson Smith prizes in fiction, and the Greg Grummer Prize in poetry. A graduate of West Virginia University and the M.F.A. program at Queens University of Charlotte, she teaches writing at N.C. A&T State University and is a regular workshop leader at the John C. Campbell Folk School and the North Carolina Writers Network. Visit her blog at and her website at
As you might expect from this stellar background, Nieman’s choices of poems are in the top quintillionth of the best (okay, I’m exaggerating, but I always wanted to use the word “quintillionth” in a sentence, and the hyperbole fits). In past issues she has given a lot of extra time to contributors. In 13, for example, she asks each poet three questions, thereby adding the author’s background, philosophy and creative impetus to the mix.

Anyone who knows how hard editors work can validate the generosity of this embellishment. Icing the cake, all poems are accompanied by a sizeable photo. More toil and moil for the editor, and yet more nuance and impact for the reader.

Not only that, when the contract for publication arrived in my email, the dull legal aspect was palliated by Neiman’s congenial demeanor as she welcomed me “to the Prime Number family.” I have over 600 publications, spanning a decade, and I will step right up to the plate and say that Nieman’s acute discernment and gracious mannerism establish Prime Number’s place as a high-end poetry journal at the national and international level.

True, it wouldn't be wise of me to show up on Thanksgiving and ask to be part of the PN family; but her introductory elegance is appreciated!

Based in North Carolina, Prime Number is affiliated with Press 53, an independent publishing house. The Publisher is Kevin Morgan Watson, founder of Press 53. The Editor is Clifford Garstand. The Non-fiction Editor is Tracy Crow. All the staff have jaw-dropping bios, available on site. Seriously, this is a talented group of people and they are not fooling around. If you’re looking for a lax zine with low standards for acceptance, this is not the place. No slide-rule guestimations here.

I give untethered approval to Prime Number. If I could hoot in praise as many times as there are prime numbers, I would; but since Euclid proved they never end, ad astra, I am content to hoot until this owl sounds like a hoarse thrush.

Go to Prime Number, read the great material, tell the editors what you liked. You won’t feel like a square afterward, I guarantee you.



  1. Thanks, Chris!
    This is a growing family - someday you'll have to make it down to NC to see the rest of the in-laws!
    Really loved your poem in time for Thanksgiving Day.

  2. Thanks, Val!

    Prime Number truly impresses. My father is from NC, and I have relatives there (Raleigh, Waynesville) ... If I ever visit, I will definitely try to hook up!